Breast Cancer Metastasis: Mechanisms and Therapeutic Implications

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jun 18;23(12):6806. doi: 10.3390/ijms23126806.


Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women worldwide. Metastasis is the leading cause of high mortality in most cancers. Although predicting the early stage of breast cancer before metastasis can increase the survival rate, breast cancer is often discovered or diagnosed after metastasis has occurred. In general, breast cancer has a poor prognosis because it starts as a local disease and can spread to lymph nodes or distant organs, contributing to a significant impediment in breast cancer treatment. Metastatic breast cancer cells acquire aggressive characteristics from the tumor microenvironment (TME) through several mechanisms including epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and epigenetic regulation. Therefore, understanding the nature and mechanism of breast cancer metastasis can facilitate the development of targeted therapeutics focused on metastasis. This review discusses the mechanisms leading to metastasis and the current therapies to improve the early diagnosis and prognosis in patients with metastatic breast cancer.

Keywords: EMT; breast cancer; metastasis; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary* / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment